Assembly begins with worship

As we gathered in the hotel ballroom, some finding their seats and others still at the registration tables in the hall outside, the ELCA Glocal Band filled the air with music from around the world.

At 10:00 a.m., Bishop Tim Smith stepped to the microphone and said, “As in one body, we have many members,” to which nearly 500 people responded, “so we, though many, are one in Christ.” And Bishop Smith declared the assembly to be in session in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

As is done at each assembly, we remembered that we meet on Native American lands, and collectively, we honored the First Nations People who lived on this land we now call Raleigh, North Carolina.

Bishop Smith called our attention to the ELCA’s theme for this year: We are church for the sake of the world. (This is the last of four emphases Presiding Bishop Eaton established.)

Then it was time to set some basic ground rules and procedures for the day, and the first order of business was to silence our cell phones. Bishop Smith said that in the event a cell phone did ring and interrupt our assembly as we are in the midst of a business session, the owner of that phone would be invited to stop by the World Hunger table and make a $20 donation! This brought quite a round of laughter—as well as applause!

Pastor Ann Kelly gave the credentials and enrollment report, giving the total number of voting members, visitors, and special guests. A quorum was declared, and the following proceedings would be the will of this assembly.

Deacon Liz Fisher presented the agenda for approval, a video outlined the rules of procedure, and Pastor Jill King addressed the assembly regarding nominations. Then, we prepared our hearts for worship.

The ELCA Glocal Musicians led us in powerful music, we asked forgiveness for the times we have acted or spoken too quickly as well as the times we have acted or spoken too slowly, or not at all. Then our bishop declared the entire forgiveness of all our sins in the name of the Trinity.

Bishop Smith preached on the lectionary text for the Second Sunday after Pentecost, Mark 2:23-3:6, when, on the Sabbath, Jesus heals a man with a withered hand while the Pharisees are upset about him breaking the Sabbath rules. Bishop Smith proclaimed the good news that while we live and work within agencies and institutions with rules and systems, those are not the treasure. Jesus is the treasure. What God has done in Jesus is the treasure. Love is the treasure.

At Synod Assembly every year, we read the names of the rostered leaders who have died since we last gathered in Assembly (necrology). As Bishop Smith read each name, a photo was projected on the screen, and a bell was tolled. We prayed in humble gratitude for the life and service of each person.Celebrating Holy Communion in such a vast assembly is a powerful experience, and Pastor CeCee Mills presided at Christ’s Table with deep love and great joy. Sharing the meal, Christ’s peace, and the joy of Christian fellowship was the perfect start to our holy work.

Story: Jennifer Shimota Krushas is pastor at Emmanuel in High Point.
Photo: The Rev. Ray Sipe, Chaplain Trinity Place, Albemarle; Pastor Mt. Gilead Mt. Pleasant and St. Martin Concord.